Dead Glute Syndrome is a common phenomenon nowadays with our sedentary, seated lifestyle. Sitting for so long every day causes glutes to be chronically in a stretched position. Our brains think we no longer need to use this muscle then and it redistributes its effort to build connection to muscles we use more often and decrease connection to our glutes that we use so little. This causes us to be unable to activate at build muscle there and causes much of the problems with knee and back pain in our daily lives.
When I first noticed I had this problem, I tried many commonly circulated glute-activating moves but never felt my glutes engage. I had it pretty bad, despite being pretty active throughout my life, but the hours and hours of sitting had gotten to me worse than I thought. I had to go back to the very basics myself and tap back into my knowledge of basic anatomy and physiology to figure out what to do to overcome this. This is what I found worked for me and should be effective for anyone along the spectrum of the problem.
For very, very dead glutes, start here:
Bilateral Prone Leg Raise
The only move that eventually worked for me was the bilateral prone leg raise.
Steps are as follows:
- Lie face down on anything: exercise mat, bed, couch, floor, etc
- Tighten abs
- Focus on squeezing your butt to lift both KNEES 2 inches into the air
Once you are able to actually feel your glutes activating, I would do this move daily, 3 rounds of 10 pulses, for 7 days.
- Focus on lifting your legs from your thighs AKA focus on lifting your knees, not your feet. Your glutes connect your pelvis and back to your thighs. When you focus on lifting your feet, your knees bend and you are activating your hamstrings, not your glutes. Focusing on the specific joint helps activate the proper muscle and not the surrounding, “compensating” muscles.
- It can be very helpful to reach around with your arms and grab your butt 😛 while doing this to give your brain another tactile signal about where to find the connection to that muscle in the deeply buried recesses of the brain. You can also make sure you feel your glutes contracting in your hands which can be helpful when it’s been so long since that muscle has last contracted, it also can’t give your brain the proper signals back yet about what it’s doing.
Why this works
When muscles fibers have lost nerve connection to your brain, they are much easier for your brain to locate when they are grouped together in a flexed position. It’s much harder for your brain to activate any muscle when it is being stretched. This is how our brains lose connection to our glutes in the first place as we are so often sitting with glutes fully stretched around the hip.
In general, if you aren’t feeling the activation in the right area, bring your legs into an almost fully flexed position and then pulse contractions by focusing as much as possible on the target muscle.
Starting in a hands-and-knees position, as is commonly seen for glute activation, puts your glutes into an almost fully stretched position. This is a more advanced glute activation exercise and I don’t recommend starting here for at least a couple weeks since muscles in the stretched position are always harder to activate than those in a flexed position.
Laying flat, face down, puts your glutes into an almost fully flexed position. You can find a bit more range of motion when you try to lift your legs up into the air as the small full-contraction pulsing movement.
It is also very helpful to start with both glutes at a time. What little brain-muscle connection is left is halved by isolating the glutes one side at a time, making it twice as hard to activate at will. Starting with both at the same time is much more effective for finding that mind-muscle connection in the first place, which is the hardest part in the beginning.
Building up from here
Work this week on getting comfortable flexing your glutes from this position, then check out my post coming next week for how to build up from here.